First it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was reconsidering the decision banning baseball great Pete Rose from the game. Rose was expelled from baseball for life in 1989 for betting on baseball games.
Reinstatement would allow Rose to be eligible to be voted on by the Veteran’s Committee for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While Rose was never convicted of the actual crime of sport betting, he nevertheless was tossed by Major League Baseball as an unsuitable character.
The National Football League also announced that it was conditionally reinstating top quarterback Michael Vick after he served a 20 month Federal prison term for his major role in an illegal dog fighting enterprise. Because of the conviction, Vick was suspended from playing in the NFL and incurred over $200 million in losses in salary and promotional fees.
Professional sports will ban a player for life or impose lesser sanctions for infractions that not only are criminal in nature, but break rules, ethical codes or exhibit other inappropriate behavior that is deemed to threaten the “integrity” of the sport.
Criminals can be and are granted either pardons or clemency by the President of the United States (under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution) or state governors. In the world of professional sports, which have their own corporate rules and regulations, it is often up to the sole discretion of the Commissioner of the sport to allow a player back into the fold.
Both Vick and Rose are plain and simple great athletes. While they may not be exactly role models for students or great candidates to be your son in law, they nevertheless should be allowed to reenter the world of professional sports and be part of their respective games.
In context of playing a professional sport and being inducted into a Sports Hall of Fame, great athletes should be judged foremost on their athletic talents first and foremost, not their character flaws or even their criminal transgressions outside the playing field. Criminality or unethical behavior should only be considered if they break a rule or a law that pertains to their actual playing on the field (like taking steroids to enhance performance).
The moral fiber of a professional athlete exhibited outside the game should not bar them from playing sports. What a player does off the field or after his career is over should not have an effect on his job or standing in the sports world. While some professional athletes make a lot of money, they are still simply human beings, not saints, who have the same character flaws as their fans. Sometimes, they make big mistakes.
In this day and age, it is ridiculous to hold professional players to the same high moral standards as religious leaders or leaders in our community. The bar is raised way too high for these athletes in terms of turpitude.
In Rose’s case, the decade’s long ban was overkill. Rose is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, living baseball player whose achievements are still unprecedented. His betting did not have any influence on his team’s performance while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds and he was in fact never convicted of sports betting. He should have been inducted in the Hall of Fame a long time ago.
In Vick’s case, he committed a heinous crime against animals and paid the ultimate price, both by going to prison and in terms of losing a tremendous amount of salary and other income. He has agreed to be mentored, to go to counseling, and to perform other rehabilitative acts to get his personal life back on track. He did his time and deserves to be playing football again (maybe not for any team named after an animal :).
A number of different standards for criminals are considered for a Presidential pardon, including how the petitioner has conducted himself in general while and after serving his sentence, the seriousness of the crime committed, acceptance of responsibility and showing of remorse, and the need for relief http://www.usdoj.gov/pardon/petitions.htm
If these standards were applied to Vick and Rose, they would surely qualify for a pardon.
Both men have expressed remorse and more than paid their penalties for their transgressions. It is time to forgive them. They are still sports giants and deserve to get both the recognition for their great athletic abilities and to be part of their respective games again.
After all, baseball and football are still basically just games.